September 15, 2006
While Will Rogers claimed he never met a man he didn’t like, Doug Watson hopes he can help today’s youth meet and like Oklahoma’s favorite native son.
Dr. Watson, professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, will portray Rogers in schools across the state this year. He is working with the “Will Rogers in the Classroom” project, sponsored by the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. The project is designed to support the Oklahoma Centennial and revive interest in the state’s legendary storyteller.
Watson will travel to schools across the state and present “Will Rogers was Not Just a Cowboy.” The program is part historical characterization, part multimedia, and includes class discussion and interaction.
Watson has been playing Rogers for nine years and has made appearances in more than 26 states. He has performed in summer chautauquas, in various civic and humanities venues, on C-SPAN, and in churches.
“A fairly recent Oklahoma Today poll listed Will Rogers as Oklahoma’s favorite son, but there are a lot of young people who don’t know much about him at all,” said Watson, who has been an OBU faculty member since 1980. “Some other folks, who should know better, confuse him with Roy (‘King of the Cowboys’) or Kenny (‘The Gambler’) or Fred (‘The Neighborhood’). He deserves to be kept alive in our cultural memory, and that’s what I hope this program helps to accomplish.”
Watson has been active in the Great Plains Chautauqua Society since 1991, when he débuted the characterization of Nathaniel Hawthorne in Chautauqua’s American Renaissance Series. In 1994, he added Stephen Crane to his repertoire, and performed that character for four summers. In January 1998, he began his portrayal of Will Rogers.
Since then, he has presented his Will Rogers program more than 200 times for organizations across the United States. Dr. Watson has served as a Fulbright lecturer in Nigeria, and is on the board of trustees of the World Neighbors organization and the Oklahoma Chamber Music Series.